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Human rights groups tell the truth. It is we who refuse to listen

We refuse to listen to what human rights groups say about the West Bank and Gaza Strip because we do not want to admit we are ultimately responsible.

By Assaf David

Palestinian boys study by candlelight during a power outage in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip on March 14, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)

Palestinian boys study by candlelight during a power outage in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip on March 14, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)

How does Israel, its institutions, its academy, and its mainstream media, understand the goings on the Palestinian side? Through the crosshairs, of course.

This is not new, but these crosshairs are located in the wider context of Israel’s political institutions. This aspect deserves a closer analysis, since the discourse surrounding these institutions contains a kind of knowledge that molds our consciousness, while erasing knowledge of a different kind.

Are Fatah and Hamas reconciling? Hoards of academics and media figures will analyze every statement, every personality, every move, trying to place them in their political, tactical, or strategic context. Trump, Egypt, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Mahmoud Abbas, Mohammed Dahlan, Haniyeh, Sinwar, Islamic Jihad, Salafi, Sunni, Shi’a.

But life is more complicated than personalities, organizations, and political moves. Haaretz recently interviewed Palestinian-Israeli psychologist Mohammed Masour, who volunteers with Physicians for Human Rights. Mashad travels frequently to Gaza, describing the horrifying reality in the Strip. Chaos rules, disrupting long-accepted customs and behaviors in Palestinian society, including between men and women.

Meanwhile, we stew in our ignorance. The information we are exposed to in academia and the media surrounds Abbas and Dahlan jockeying for power, jihad and Iran, Salafists and Hamas. One tries to screw the other over, some are weaker than others, that’s why they signed an Egyptian-backed reconciliation agreement, but who know if they really mean it.

But what don’t we know? Everything human rights organizations have been persistently telling us for years. All those organizations, silenced by the government and the Knesset at home, yet proudly displayed for all the world to see in the fight over international minds.

Palestinians protest against the closure of a road which connects Qilqis village with Hebron city, which has been closed by the Israeli army since 2000, Hebron, West Bank, November 10, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Palestinians protest against the closure of a road which connects Qilqis with Hebron, which has been closed by the Israeli army since 2000, Hebron, West Bank, November 10, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamon/Flash90)

Human rights organizations allow us to prove that Israel is the only democracy in the region. And anyone who doesn’t like it can go to Gaza, along with these groups. These are groups that tell us what is happening on the ground. We do not want to see it, hear it, or read it. Take them away from us, because we are uncomfortable with the fact that, in the end, this is our fault.

Yes, our fault. We deny an entire nation its national rights, and in order to ensure that our victory is permanent, we also deny human rights to the individuals who make up this nation. That is why we are responsible. We are signatories to this chaos, even if we are not the only ones behind it.

When was the last time you saw a politician, political commentator, or academic — all of them “professional,” “apolitical,” and “neutral” — analyze what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza on the basis of reports and statistics provided by human rights groups in the field?

You didn’t. Because in order to maintain the twisted worldview that we have built for ourselves, it is important to continue looking down from above — at politics, institutions, internal rivalries between different groups. Heaven forbid we look at the people themselves, those who are crushed under the weight of the boot, who live a life that grows more and more miserable until things explode — like they did with Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia.

Apart from denial, we cannot expect a thing from politicians on the Right. But we can ask left-wing politicians, media personalities, and academics: want to start somewhere? Perhaps you should start including information provided by human rights groups about the West Bank and Gaza in your analyses. Not only in order to give these groups public legitimacy, but because this is the only information that gives voice to the people you are talking about. The only information that turns them into human beings.

Let’s begin with this. The rest, inshallah, will come on its own.

Dr. Assaf David is a founding member and director of the Forum for Regional Thinking. He teaches at the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This article was first published in Hebrew on Haokets. Read it here.

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    1. Bruce Gould

      @Adam Mio: “I have always asked this myself, and never understood why we only hear of things if it fits in a certain worlview/agenda/narrative.”


      “The Israel lobby is one of the most powerful and pervasive special interest groups in the United States. It consists of a multitude of powerful institutions and individuals that work to influence Congress, the president, academia, the media, religious institutions, and American public opinion on behalf of Israel.”

      Reply to Comment
    2. john

      no peaceful solution exists that excludes relief for the people gaza.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Like most of the Israelis, I support the politics of our government even though I think that too many Arabs are working in Israel. We do not have any confidence in the left.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Firentis

      As long as the Palestinians continue to teach their children that justice can only come once Israel is destroyed I don’t see any reason why I should care about the consequences of us defending ourselves on people that want to destroy us. Those who prefer to see fault in our existence in the first place will obviously disagree and are welcome to go drink the sea in Gaza. Or they can go work in Molad and get paid by European governments to try to spread their special brand of traitorous poison. Come to think of it the second option is far more preferable and comfortable as long as the European taxpayers oblige. Either way no one is going to listen to the alphabet soup of foreign-funded groups producing propaganda for their foreign paymasters.

      Our victory is permanent. If the Palestinians are interested in peace they are welcome to surrender like defeated nations usually do and we will be very generous in our victory.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Firentis: “If the Palestinians are interested in peace they are welcome to surrender like defeated nations usually do..” Progress is slow but steady – it used to be that Palestinians didn’t really exist – but now they’re acknowledged as a “defeated nation”.

        If the Palestinians are a defeated nation then perhaps the Geneva conventions on the treatment of defeated nations should apply.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Can’t think of a better example of refusing to listen. Thanks.

        Reply to Comment